“I am so sorry,” Alex said again to the housekeeping lady. “It was completely involuntary. I would never have done this on purpose.”
“Sweetie, I have cleaned up worse messes, trust me.” The woman was old enough to be his grandmother or this would have been way more embarrassing.
“That hasn’t happened to me since I was twelve or thirteen, and that was definitely before I was in a wheelchair and couldn’t clean up after myself.” Having spent weeks in the hospital a few months prior, Alex was used to having nurses and nursing assistants change out his bedding every couple of days just for routine maintenance. But a housekeeper at a swanky hotel? Awkward.
“That’s about the age that a boy learns to do his own laundry, isn’t it?” The woman didn’t wait for him to answer her rhetorical question, just headed for the large janitorial cart on wheels that was parked outside his hotel room. She returned with clean sheets and made short work of tucking in the corners and spreading them tight across the king size bed. “There you go, sweetie, you’re all set,”
“Thank you so much.” Alex wheeled out of her way so she could finish tidying up the bathroom and changing out towels. He placed his hand on the corner of the bed, remembering how shocked he was to wake up that way, the embarrassment, and then the realization about what this meant for his body. He was healing. Maybe, just maybe he would regain freedom.
They’d been on the road for weeks, Alex in his own hotel room, with Ellen and her father in a suite down the hall. Alex paid Malik twice what he usually made in his physical therapy practice back home, plus all expenses as they traveled.
Malik gave Alex and Ellen just enough free reign that he didn’t seem like a babysitter. He always made excuses a few times a day that he needed to check in with his office to see how his other patients were doing. He was often busy at mealtimes and insisted they go on ahead and eat without him. Malik was there for Alex’s stretches, and assisted with speaking engagements, but otherwise stayed on the sidelines.
Alex and Ellen had gotten very close. They talked about the future, solidified their commitment to devote their lives to God and spreading this important message to as many teens as would listen. They finished their book and worked together with a publishing company to bring the story to the masses. They prayed together. A lot. They talked to God about all kinds of crazy things, especially the teenagers they met.
Hey, God, did you see that kid in the front row in the black shirt? He really looked like he could use a break. Could you send him some love? Or Hey, God, the kids today were so welcoming. Thank you for preparing their hearts to hear my words.
Of course, Alex and Ellen also prayed about his body healing along with his mind and heart. They’d come a long way. Occasionally Alex felt tingling sensations in his toes or an ache deep inside a muscle in one of his legs. Nothing as remarkable this morning’s experience. This was a game changer.
“Sweetie?” The housekeeper startled him out of his contemplative remembrance. “I’m gonna take these jammies to get washed too. I’ll have ‘em back before supper.” She had found the wet clothes he’d thrown onto the shower floor, hoping to somehow clean them during his shower. He’d sort of gotten them cleaned but not really.
“Thank you, seriously, thank you.”
“No problem. I hope you have a wonderful day,” she said, then left his room, pulling the door shut behind her.
Alex pulled out his phone and sent a text to Ellen. You’ll never believe what just happened.
* * * * *
“What did your dad say when you told him you were spending the night with me?” Alex asked, smoothing Ellen’s feathery hair across the pillow. Propped on one elbow, Alex was able to gaze down at her where she laid beside him on the king-sized bed in his hotel room.
“He wasn’t happy, but he sort of doesn’t have a choice. We’re adults and you’re financing this whole working vacation. I told him we needed some time alone. And then I left.”
“I’m glad you’re here.” Alex wanted to respect their parents’ wishes, but the reality was he and Ellen were adults and had to act as their own chaperones. They knew right from wrong, especially after devoting their lives to God. “Do you ever feel silly, praying with me like this?”
“Heck no. I never realized growing up that I’d marry a man who walked so close with God.”
“Well, I never knew I’d be walking with God. This is strange.”
“You know what’s strange is that you and I both referred to you as walking with God yet you’re in a wheelchair.”
“I’d rather wheel around following God than walk without him.”
“You know, that says a lot about you and your willingness to serve without expectation of reward or miracle.”
“Which makes this request that much more comical.” Alex took a deep breath and continued. “You know, I firmly believe that God meant for us humans to have a physical connection with our spouse that transcends just having babies. He wants us to enjoy the closeness that only comes through the joining of our bodies. If he didn’t, the experience wouldn’t feel so dang good.”
“I hope I get to experience that with you,” Ellen said. “But if not, I still want to marry you.”
“No matter what happens in the next hour or so, we are not having sex, no matter how hard I beg.”
“No matter how hard I beg either.” She chuckled.
“Not funny babe. You’ve got to be strong enough for both of us.”
“No Alex, you have to be strong enough for both of us. And I have faith that you will be.”
“On that note, give me your hands.” Alex and Ellen clasped hands, pressed their foreheads together, and closed their eyes. “God, it’s Ellen and Alex again. We really appreciate how close we’ve grown these past few months, and we appreciate all the lessons that you’ve taught us. We appreciate the opportunity that we have to serve all these kids who need our direction and who need to hear my story so that they can hopefully make good decisions in their lives. We’re thankful that my accident and injuries are able to touch the lives of other kids so they can learn from my mistakes.
“God, some of the biggest mistakes that I’ve made have involved sexual sins and I don’t want that to ever happen to me again. I have forgiven myself and I know that you have forgiven me, and Ellen has forgiven me, and you are healing my body a little more every day, and you will continue to heal my body a little more every day.
“God, we’re not expecting a miracle, and our faith will not be tried based on what happens in the next hour, but we really, really want this experiment to work. We want your help to heal my body so that we can have a beautiful, happy, physical relationship once we’re married.
“God, we promise, both of us—I promise—I promise that I will not have sex with Ellen tonight. No matter what happens. I will wait for our wedding night.”
Ellen interrupted. “Hey God, it’s me, Ellen, I also promise that I will not have sex with Alex tonight. I will wait for our wedding night.”
“God, it’s Alex again. What we really want from you is something to let us know we’re on the right track. And if we are, we will immediately begin making plans to get married. We want you to be happy with us and we want our parents to be happy with us and we don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we have to get married like Gus and Phoebe. We want to get married because that’s what’s right for us—just us—Alex and Ellen, a couple of stupid, 18-year-old kids. We just want to serve you in whatever way you need us.
“Please God we’d like your help.”
They weren’t expecting a booming voice out of the sky, or even a physical answer in any way. But they lay there together for just a moment, waiting, listening, trying to see if they would feel any promptings to do one thing or another. As usual, a peace came over Alex’s heart just like it always did when he spoke to God.
“Come here, babe,” Alex said. “I want to hold you for a few minutes.” He pulled her into his arms and just held her. They didn’t speak for a long time and Alex wondered if she had fallen asleep. When he moved slightly to see if she was going to open her eyes, she did. “Hi,” he said.
Alex pulled Ellen a little closer and pressed his lips to hers, softly at first, and then with more passion.
Their breathing grew heavy and their kisses grew more and more passionate. He helped her out of her shirt, and she helped him out of his, and they explored each other just a little.
Alex was surprised at his own restraint, knowing things he’d like to do to her body, and knowing those things needed to wait until after they were married.
But he also wanted his body to have the opportunity to respond if it was going to. So, he didn’t want to hold back too much. Even though he didn’t allow his hands to wander, he encouraged hers to, and she knew that, and hers did. Finally, after almost a year of waiting to have any sort of reaction in his body, Alex finally felt the stirrings of life.
Rather than feeling the desire to have sex, all Alex could do was cry. He was so happy and so relieved that he sobbed, and sobbed, and sobbed, holding Ellen tightly, allowing these feelings to flow through every fiber of his being, allowing himself to wake up for the first time since coming out of his coma, knowing that tomorrow everything would be different.
Book Club Discussion Questions: This is more of a comment. I wish I had allowed Alex's love for God to show through in the rest of the series.